…but not really.

In Two Cheers for Anarchism, James Scott advocates (ethically) practicing breaking rules as necessary and good to be better positioned to break *big* rules when it matters. Authority is not always just, laws and cultures are to varying degree immoral, and in the worst social worlds humans have created for themselves it is only individual noncompliance, willingness to defy orders (it is a fair bet that we’re alive today because of the individual moral compass of Stanislav Petrov, a soviet soldier who in 1962 refused orders to launch retaliatory nuclear strikes against the United States when the instrumentation of his base registered false positives). We need practice breaking rules because this gives us the best chance to resist immoral rules.

In a similar vein, I think we need practice being hated, being judged. Or, if not being hated or being judged pers se, then practice ignoring the voice that tells us we’re going to be judged.

I was walking with a friend the other day when my dog unexpectantly took a crap (she poops like five times a day, so sometimes she catches me off guard or otherwise bagless). I said I’d walk home and get an extra bag, he said he’d remain to guard’ it by which he meant remain standing nearby to signal to any hypothetical passerby that we were not jerks, littering our community with animal waste. But this was a perfect time to practice ignoring the worry about being judged, about being hated.

Odds are, no one saw us and no one cared. So there was limited risk of someone’s opinion of me/us changing. Moreover, even if they saw us ‘abandon’ the poop, what of it? Their opinion of me wouldn’t matter almost certainly. And I would know I wasn’t what a hypothetical observer would conclude — a dog shit abandoner.

The opinions of others about me certainly matter; being judged and hated can mean huge swings in my ability to make friends and lovers, what I can earn, opportunities and all the rest. But it’s entirely possible that, much as I may need to ignore the immoral orders’ of a corrupt society, I may in this life need to ignore the moral judgement of others to do the right thing. And if I am to do this, if I am to face down storms of judgement, then I need to avail myself to practice facing (hypothetical) judgement, having people’s (hypothetical) opinions of me change especially if it’s in response to me doing the right thing.

To practice letting appearances slip, to risk being misunderstood for there are times that it will be impossible for others to understand me or judge me fairly.

I desire for my rule following to be a choice rather than a reflex, to cleave tighter to my own moral and ethical standards rather than dwell on autopilot of just following the rules’ or (more realistically) dodging the judgement of people who probably don’t really exist and if they do almost certainly don’t notice. In a similar vein, I desire to do the right thing regardless of how it affects others’ opinions of me, to recognize -in the words of Chuck C- other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.’

It’s worthwhile keeping up appearances, but there will be times when it will be impossible to both keep up appearances (dodge some judgement, dodge some random hate) and do the right thing, and for those times I want to have had experience (fearing) being slandered in the court of the minds of others without cowing or breaking in the face of opinions, hate, or judgement that can’t truly affect me beyond my tribal brain’s belief that the disdain of others is an existential threat (as it was for so many of my ancestors, who lived in tightknit tribal groups who would most likely die if shunned or banished by the tribe).

Else shaming is a weapon that is brandished too freely. And just its existence, floating in the ether of 21st century social relations, is enough to keep me on a straight and narrow which serves no one, least of all myself.

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